Above Darjeeling—a modern and fashionable health-resort, a town of villas, for the most part with corrugated iron roofs—hangs a dense mist, cutting off the horizon at a distance of a few miles; and through the dull substance of this fleece, at an impossible height, there was a reflection—a mirage, an illusion, a brighter gleam, a bluer shadow, which might be the top of a mountain; but so high up, so far away, and above all so transient, that it failed to fix itself on the memory, blotted out at once by the pallid wall that shut[Pg 147] in the scene. But at sunset one thickness of the haze melted away, unveiling, leagues on leagues away, a chain of giant mountains, not yet the snowy peaks, but bright-hued cliffs on which gold and purple mingled in symphonies before dying into violet, turning to blue in the moonlight; and the mists fell once more—a shroud at our feet, an abyss of shadows, in which the tea-planters' lamps twinkled through the darkness.
A Mohammedan funeral now. The body was in a coffin, covered with red stuff, sparkling with gold thread. The bearers and mourners chanted an almost cheerful measure, as they marched very slowly to the[Pg 24] burial-ground by the seaside, where the dead rest under spreading banyans and flowering jasmine.In the centre of the modern fort, a belt of walls with gates that form palaces under the arches, is the ancient residence of the Moguls. Beyond the barracks full of native and English soldiers, we reached the cool silence of the throne-room. Colonnades of red stone surround a throne of white marble inlaid with lilies in carnelian on tall stems of jasper. All round this throne, to protect it from the tourists, but also as if to emphasize its vanity, is a railing.The old palace of the kings is now yellow-ochre, coated with plaster and lime-wash over the splendid antique marble walls.
"Farewell," said he, "and may the Almighty protect you, for you look kind."The large town lies along the bank of the Jellum; the houses are of wood, grey and satiny with old age, and almost all tottering to their end on the strand unprotected by an embankment. The windows are latticed with bent wood in fanciful designs. Large houses built of brick have thrown out covered balconies and verandahs, supported on tall piles in the water, and on brackets carved to represent monsters or flowering creepers.The cathedral, embowered in shrubs and tall banyans, stands on a square, where a pedestal awaits the bust of Dupleix.
At the end of the garden, in a little temple, is a statue of the holy man of the size of life, in his favourite attitude, sitting on his crossed legs. Round the image were the most absurd toys—and a photograph of the German Emperor! As I was leaving, the fakir called me back, asked me to think of him sometimes, and gave me one of the splendid yellow roses that hung about him like a glory.
Then, in the magic of the evening, the air was saturated with fragrance; invisible gardenias, amaryllis, and lemon-flowers perfumed the cool night. On every side we could hear the quavering guzla, the sound of tom-toms and tambourines. The streets were brightly lighted up and crowded.
All round Domel there were fields of lilac lilies among the silky young grass, and the cliffs were[Pg 271] hung with a yellow eglantine exhaling a penetrating scent of almonds.The evening was exquisitely calm, shrouding everything in rose-colour, and shedding a light, opalescent golden haze on the pools and streams. And out of this floating gauze, in the doubtful light, white figures seemed to emerge gradually,[Pg 107] only to vanish again in the pure, transparent atmosphere of the blue night.
An interpreter translated to the accused the questions put by the judge, who understood the replies, though he was not allowed to speak excepting in English.Still the tonga; uphill and down, over the hilly country, with a horizon of dull, low mountains, and the horses worse and worse, impossible to start but by a storm of blows. Towards evening a particularly vicious pair ended by overturning us into a ditch full of liquid mud. The sais alone was completely immersed, and appealed loudly to Rama with shrieks of terror. Abibulla on his part, after making sure that the sahibs and baggage were all safe and sound, took off his shoes, spread his dhoti on the ground, and made the introductory salaams of thanksgiving to the Prophet, while the coolie driver returned thanks to Rama.
Abibulla delivered a long harangue through the closed door; at last a wicket was opened, framing an eye. I was invited to approach, and then, after examination, the wicket in the polished door was abruptly closed!
In the depths of little recesses the lamps twinkled feebly before images crowned with flowers. At the entrances to shrines little glass lamps, like a mysterious fairy illumination, followed the lines[Pg 116] of the arabesques, sparkling like glowworms, without lighting up the passages which remained dark, and in which, in fact, we finally lost ourselves.And side by side with history a pleasing legend tells that King Anang-Pal yearned to atone for his faults and redeem the earth from sin. So by the[Pg 220] counsels of a wise Brahmin he caused this vast iron spike to be forged by giants, to be driven into the earth and pierce the serpent Sechnaga, who upholds the world. The deed was done, but because certain disbelieving men denied that the monster was dead, the king caused the weapon to be pulled up, and at the end of it behold the stain of blood; so the iron beam was driven in again. But the spell was broken—the creature had escaped. The column remained unstable, prefiguring the end of the dynasty of Anang, and the serpent still works his wicked will.
The scenery was preposterous: red and green flowers growing on violet boughs, with forests in the background of pink and yellow trees; perspective views of streets, in which the houses were climbing over each other, and finally a purple cavern under a brilliant yellow sky.详情
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